Parents regret viral photo of 6yo son with no friends at birthday party

“Honestly, I would love to go back in time and not have sent it."

The parents of a six-year-old boy whose classmates didn’t show up for his birthday pizza party said their son is over the pie-size disappointment — but they regret sharing the photo that made the story go viral.

Sil Mazzini and Ted Bollinger said the birthday bash on Sunday at Peter Piper Pizza in Tucson, Arizona for their son Teddy was the boy’s “first birthday party” at a venue, a chance for him to let loose with his 32 classmates from BASIS Tucson Primary school.

But an hour into the party, no one had shown up — sending the family’s spirits into a tailspin.

“I was bummed, I was bummed out for sure,” Mr Bollinger told the New York Post in a phone interview late Tuesday.

“Teddy, the biggest things for him was having his classmates there, so not seeing them show up an hour into the party was disappointing.”

So Mr Bollinger and Ms Mazzini did what most parents would do in that situation — keep their son occupied.

“He’s 6, so he was distracted by the arcade games, the pizza, he got over it quick,” Mr Bollinger said. “He’s tough. But when Sil told me she was posting [the photo], I told her not to do it, but she did and it took off. It’s pretty wild.”

Debra Messing (mom of son Roman): “The priority shift is a relief. There are so many things that used to monopolize my time and my energy that I realize now, in the face of being a mother, are just completely irrelevant.”


The heartbreaking photo of Teddy at his party that his mum wishes she never posted on social media.

"I never expected any of this to go so viral”

Ms Mazzini said she sent the picture in “disbelief” when none of the “20-something” guests she had expected showed up.

After giving invitations to Teddy’s teacher with her phone number on them, she said she got “like 15 RSVPs,” and a few others who responded that they wouldn’t be making it.

“I was kind of shocked and then at the end when I had to pay for it, I was upset,” Ms Mazzini said of the $130 bill. “That’s why I wrote a message. But I never expected any of this, for this to go so viral.”

But Ms Mazzini said she now wishes she hadn’t sent the photo of Teddy sitting alone in front of several half-eaten pizzas to a local news website, kicking off an absolute frenzy that continued Wednesday night when the family went as special guests to watch the Phoenix Suns take on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Honestly, I would love to go back in time and not have sent that message,” Ms Mazzini said. “We don’t want all the attention. We didn’t do this for attention or for gifts or anything. I did it in the moment but I wasn’t smart. I was upset. That’s it."

Plan not-so-random acts of kindness. Kids need to know that helping others is an everyday practice, not a visit-a-soup-kitchen-at-the-holidays grand gesture. Challenge yours to complete small tasks every week, like throwing away another kid's trash at lunch or raking a neighbor's lawn. Training your children to focus on others helps curb entitlement. "Gratitude becomes woven into who they are," says Jeffrey J. Froh, a coauthor of Making Grateful Kids.

"He wasn’t sad that day, just during that moment”

As for people who criticised her decision, Ms Mazzini said: “I don’t know, I cannot say anything. It happened and you know, he’s a loving boy and I give him a lot of love and I provide for him, so he’s content. He wasn’t sad that day, just during that moment.”

Ms Mazzini said Teddy quickly got over the dismay of partying alone because Mr Bollinger — who works in an Alaska oilfield and is gone for weeks at a time — had “come all the way” from his job site to be with his son.

“So at the end of the day, he was very happy,” Ms Mazzini said.

Still, Teddy won’t be having a birthday party next year, she said.

“No, we are not,” she said. “Not anymore, I don’t think so because it’s so much planning for me. I will just take him on a trip.”


Teddy and his parents have all moved on from the incident.

“All the kids told him they were very sorry"

Ms Mazzini said she gave Teddy three options for his birthday party: a trip to Disney World, an excursion to Legoland or a party with his classmates.

Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.

He chose the third, she said.

Teddy, meanwhile, returned to school Monday and had seemingly moved on, Ms Mazzini said.

“All the kids saw him and they told him that they were very sorry,” she said. “They forgot to go. It was a tough day for him, but it happened and we’re moving on.”

Teddy didn't take it personally

Mr Bollinger said Teddy “understands people are busy” and didn’t take the no-shows personally.

They’re now focused on attending the family’s NBA game — “It’s going to be insane,” Mr Bollinger said — and navigating the deluge of well wishes and unsolicited gifts for Teddy from strangers across the globe.

“I just honestly thought this would be local news in Tucson and maybe Phoenix, but we’re getting calls from around the world,” Mr Bollinger told The Post.

“It’s nothing like I would’ve ever guessed, never in my wildest dreams.”

The article was originally published in the New York Post and has been published here with permission.